The very ethos of our style of travel is responsible; small groups on fully escorted tours, experiencing the very best of a region, a culture and a landscape, with a friendly local hand guiding the way. Our itineraries are designed to give our travellers real life experiences without compromising the part of the world through which we are journeying, this is our commitment as a global tour operator.
In 2003, we responded to the call for a boycott on travel to Burma by the then democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party was denied the right to govern the country by the military dictatorship. Over the past few years positive events within the country including the elections in November 2010, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and the subsequent call to end the travel boycott by the NLD, have prompted us to return to this fascinating destination.
By reintroducing our grassroots style of travel, we can contribute to improving the circumstances of the Burmese people by way of initiating a two-way exchange. Firstly, resuming trips will give them a chance to interact with visitors from other countries, thus giving a rare glimpse into life and governance in other parts of the world, and secondly, taking passengers to Burma will help to build awareness of the complex issues this country continues to face, as well as positively contributing to the economy.
With these goals in mind, this itinerary has been designed to include lots of local interaction throughout the trip and also to utilise locally owned transport and accommodation. We aim to be as financially responsible as possible on all of our itineraries, ensuring that money spent on trip goes directly back into the local economies. On this trip for example, we will use local operators when hiring river boats in Mandalay and the ferryboat we use to journey up the Irrawaddy River. The canoes hired on Inle Lake will be owned locally and there will be the opportunity to stop at village houses around Inle to purchase traditional snacks. There is free time throughout the itinerary where travellers may like to hire bicycles to explore, or venture out by horse and carriage; both services that will be owned and operated locally.
We encourage our travellers to support local industry when it comes to purchasing souvenirs, in Burma there is plenty of opportunity to hone haggling skills visiting the local markets of Mandalay, Maymyo and Rangoon, or perhaps travellers may wish to support the craftsmen and women plying their trade in the ruin of Bagan where traditional lacquer-ware and sand paintings are available.
As well as small, local accommodations, our small group sizes (averaging 10 people with a maximum of 16) mean that we are a small enough party to enjoy local restaurants and hospitality that larger groups overlook. This again supports local industry and gives travellers a better flavour for the region, whilst our use of local guides not only creates valuable employment opportunities, but gives clients a fantastic tour experience with their ‘inside knowledge’ of Burma. A further benefit of eating locally is environmental; food sourced regionally has travelled considerably less distance than that shipped from elsewhere, massively reducing the impact of food mile carbon emissions, a subject we are passionate about.
We are proud to be a carbon neutral company, offsetting all our global carbon emissions. On this trip, we offset 843kg per passenger, per trip on top of which, we’ll give you a carbon offset option should you book your flights to Burma through us. Through these offset schemes, significant financial contributions are being made on behalf of our business, suppliers, staff and travellers to internationally certified carbon abatement projects, equating to over AU$1 million since 2007.
In addition to offsetting our carbon footprint, steps will be taken throughout your trip to Burma to further reduce our environmental impact while in country. Small measures can make a big difference to the overall picture and you will notice little actions throughout your trip. For example, all travellers in your group are encouraged to travel with refillable water bottles and purification tablets rather than purchasing water in plastic bottles to minimise waste and your group leader will also be on hand to advise on the responsible discarding of rubbish throughout the trip. These minor considerations help us ensure that travel to Burma can be enjoyed for many years to come.
As a company, our responsibilities don’t stop when our tours end. We run and support a variety of projects globally, from healthcare, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development and environmental and wildlife protection. Our own in house foundation has been in operation for over 11 years; a not-for-profit fund that has distributed over AU$3 million to more than 70 non-government organisations since 2002. Donations come from our travellers and are then matched by us dollar for dollar.